Preview: 2015 Subaru Outback subaru car previews auto shows 2014 new york international auto show 2014 auto shows
Preview: 2015 Subaru Outback subaru car previews auto shows 2014 new york international auto show 2014 auto shows
Preview: 2015 Subaru Outback subaru car previews auto shows 2014 new york international auto show 2014 auto shows
Preview: 2015 Subaru Outback subaru car previews auto shows 2014 new york international auto show 2014 auto shows
2015 Subaru Outback. Click image to enlarge

Preview and photos by Jonathan Yarkony, additional photos by Justin Pritchard

I’m not 100 percent sure that Subaru chose the New York International Auto Show for the unveiling of the 2015 Subaru Outback for the sake of irony, but it sure struck me for its contrast. In a city where tourists like us drive down, park their car, take cabs and public transportation, the Outback is a rare sight. The realm of the Outback is the suburbs and country, and the closer you get to elevation and skiing terrain, the more they seem to pop up. Outbacks are good at what they do, and what they do is handle rough terrain (okay, Manhattan roads qualify in this context) while remaining a practical and utilitarian vehicle.

Well, in some small measure Subaru is trying to change that, but without changing too much. They want to keep the utility and practicality without being seen as too utilitarian, dressing the Outback up in a more streamlined look with a more refined interior and a more refined driving experience. Don’t forget, the Outback now serves as the de facto Legacy Wagon for all of North America.

The Legacy Wagon was discontinued as of the 2007 model year in the US, and lasted only two more years in Canada, the fifth-generation 2010 model never making it to our and rugged shores or trails as a wagon. Subaru was rewarded for their overall market savvy in North America, sales leaping from under 100K for the combined Legacy and Outback variants (70K in 2008, 90K in 2009) to over 140K in 2010. The Outback alone sold almost 100,000 units between Canada and the USA in the year of the fifth-gen launch and, bucking industry trends, has only grown since, with but a slight dip last year, though still selling 118,049 Outbacks in the US and adding 6,120 here in Canada (compared to 42,291 and 2,022 Legacy sedans). My point? The Outback is a big deal, and it was the right product for the market if not for us remaining wagon aficionados.

With Subaru families now growing older and cultivating their tastes, it’s only natural that Subaru expects them to demand more refinement, so it is refinement they will get. At its launch, Subaru execs stressed that the 2015 Outback will offer the “highest level of comfort, quietness and refinement” ever in an Outback without giving up its signature ride height, practical roof rails (with folding crossbars) and ground clearance. To that end, the Outback offers a new acoustic windshield, liquid-filled engine mounts, thicker panels in key locations (floor, toeboard, rear wheel apron, inner fenders) and expanded use of foam insulation and sound-deadening floor material on the noise front.

The focus of engine revisions was on efficiency, though we in Canada still have access to the ever more rare manual transmission, in this case packaged only with the base 2.5i trim. All other trims (and the six-cylinder is only available with this transmission) feature Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT with six set ratios available in a manual mode, and with steering wheel paddle shifters to boot. Power ratings are almost unchanged, the 2.5L horizontally opposed boxer-four up to 175 hp at 5,800 rpm and 174 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm and the 3.6L boxer-six makes an unchanged 256 hp and 247 lb-ft.

Preview: 2015 Subaru Outback subaru car previews auto shows 2014 new york international auto show 2014 auto shows Preview: 2015 Subaru Outback subaru car previews auto shows 2014 new york international auto show 2014 auto shows
2015 Subaru Outback. Click image to enlarge

Both powertrains promise fuel consumption gains, though when they finally reach the market, Natural Resources Canada adoption of five-cycle testing might make it seem like they’ve gotten worse. City consumption under the old regimen goes from 8.6 to 8.0 L/100 km, and highway 6.5 to 6.0 for the 2.5 CVT. The new, more realistic rating system would follow the US EPA measurements, which sees the 2.5 CVT improving from 9.8/7.8 L/100 km city/highway to 9.4/7.1, and the 3.6 CVT managing 12.4/8.7, down from 13.8/9.4 with the previous five-speed auto. No matter how you slice the numbers, a 10 percent improvement seems fair. Aside from the CVT, active grille shutter and improved aerodynamics help the Outback slice through the air more cleanly.




About Jonathan Yarkony

Jonathan Yarkony is the Senior Editor for Autos.ca, a Brampton-based automotive writer with eight years of experience evaluating cars and an AJAC member.